Dynamometer History: An Innovation Timeline

Dynamometers have been a part of performance measurement since the days when the presence of horsepower used to be accompanied by four hulls and a tail. This versatile tool is applied all over the world, since companies such as Taylor dynamometer leverage past innovations with new advancements in data collection and systems control technology.

  • 1828 Gaspard de Prony invented the Prony Brake, one of the first dynamometers
  • 1838 Charles Babbage, known to historians as the father of the computer, introduces a dynamometer wagon to measure the pulling power of English railway locomotives.
  • 1877 William Froude of Great Britain invents the first hydraulic dynamometer, with the first commercial models produced in 1881
  • 1921 Iowa State College Professor EV Collins develops a draft horse dynamometer, which is used to measure a horse’s ability to pull heavy metal farm implements of the time.
  • 1930 Using designs initiated through a collaboration with Rudolph Diesel, John Taylor forms Taylor Dynamometer and Machine Company to produce engine dynamometers.
  • 1931 Martin and Anthony Winther present the first eddy current dynamometer

Throughout the past seven decades of continuous dynamometer development, Taylor has maintained its status as a leader in advancing power measurement technology. Contact us for the latest developments in dynamometers and engine diagnostics, or to request information on a specific dynamometer product or application.

How dynamometers work

All dynamometers perform the same essential function, measuring the torque, rotational speed, and power output of a combustion engine, electric motor, or other power source. While the result is the same, many technologies are used to achieve the desired result.

Two main types

Most dynamometers can be placed in two different categories. Engine dynamometers are designed to be coupled directly to the driveshaft of an engine under test, and chassis dynamometers measure the power output of a drivetrain using rollers turned by the tires of a vehicle under test. In addition to the two traditional types, Taylor offers a line of portable dynamometers that connect directly to the flywheel of an engine. This allows an accurate measurement of engine power without removing an engine from its drive train.

A variety of designs

The input power handling and measurement work is performed by instruments with a variety of different designs:

o Eddy current dynamometers present a measurable resistance force to the motors under test by taking advantage of the magnetic flux between fixed and rotating electromagnets rotated by the motor under test.

o A variant of eddy current design, powder dynamometers create flux by applying a fine magnetic powder between the rotor and coil

o Electric motor / generator types are a variation of the variable speed drive, using solid state components rather than the physical relationship between electromagnets to create measurable energy transfer

o Fan, hydraulic, and water brakes use air, water, or hydraulic fluid to provide physical resistance to the power applied by a motor or motor under test. The amount of resultant force absorbed by the fluid is measured to provide an indication of the power applied to the system.

The best resource for details on dynamometer function and application is a Taylor dynamometer application specialist. Contact us for all the details on how to put the latest in dynamometer technology to work in your application.

History of the eddy current dynamometer

The story of the eddy current dynamometer is the story of two Danish children from Wisconsin, who grew up in a time when innovations required an inquisitive mind and a machine shop rather than a supercomputer and a Ph.D. Martin Phillip Winther came to Ellis Island, New York in 1892 from his native Denmark. The family eventually settled in Kenosha Wisconsin, where Martin and his American-born brother Anthony began their working lives as workers at Jeffry Company, makers of the Rambler automobile. At Jeffry, the brothers were involved in engineering a four-wheel drive truck, which led them to separate and found the Winther Motor and Truck Company in 1917. While Winther Motor and Truck manufactured various types of motor vehicles (including light trucks, fire trucks and a sports car) the main product of the firm was innovation. Beginning in 1920, Martin and Anthony Winther obtained patents for nearly 300 mechanical devices. These included the first successful air conditioning system for Pullman railroad cars, a four-wheel-drive pole excavator for AT&T, the first induction coupling, a magnetic clutch, a cycle-car, variable speed drive gears, as well. as a giant press drive, brakes and couplings for the oil industry.

Although prolific, only one of the Winther brothers’ inventions proved to have a lasting impact. They are primarily known for the invention of the eddy current dynamometer, a type of high-speed, high-power dynamometer capable of far exceeding then-available products in terms of power handling capabilities. The eddy current dynamometer was able to rotate fast enough to test the turbine engines used in airplanes, wind tunnels, and high-speed automobiles of the day. The eddy current dynamometer was the flagship product of the Dynamatic Corporation, founded by the Winthers in 1932. The company was successful for many years before and after the brothers sold their interest to Eaton Corporation in 1946. Variations of the design of the Eddy currents still serve as the basis for dynamometers today. The continued use of the designs is a testament to the ingenuity of two men who never made it past the eighth grade in formal education, but turned their considerable knowledge on the job into a lasting legacy of technical achievement.

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